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Sakharov Meets Gorbachev : Gives Him List of 200 Held for Political Views

January 15, 1988|Associated Press

MOSCOW — Human rights activist Andrei D. Sakharov met Kremlin leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev for the first time today and gave him a list of 200 Soviets he said are still imprisoned for their views. It was also Gorbachev's first meeting with any dissident.

Gorbachev received the 66-year-old dissident and Nobel laureate along with about two dozen other members of the board of a new organization called the International Fund for the Survival of Humanity.

U.S. industrialist Armand Hammer, who was also at the meeting as a board member and financial benefactor of the group, said Sakharov used the opportunity to draw Gorbachev's attention to the continued plight of political prisoners.

Hammer said Sakharov presented Gorbachev a list of 200 political prisoners. The industrialist said he knows whose names were on the list.

Since becoming Communist Party general secretary in March 1985, Gorbachev has been waging a campaign for glasnost, or openness, in discussing the nation's problems.

While today's meeting was Gorbachev's first personal encounter with a dissident, he has talked to Sakharov on the telephone. The meeting was not reported by Soviet state-run media.

Maintains Low Profile

Sakharov has maintained a lower profile since returning from exile 13 months ago and has praised Gorbachev's reform policies. But he continues to speak out against human rights violations and matters of Kremlin policy he disagrees with, such as the presence of 115,000 Soviet troops in Afghanistan.

At a news conference to announce the formation of the international fund, Sakharov credited Gorbachev's reforms for allowing independent, cooperative efforts to resolve problems facing mankind.

Hammer said the Soviet leader was "very respectful" and listened attentively to Sakharov during the exchange in Gorbachev's offices today.

Sakharov, who was released from exile and allowed to return to Moscow in December, 1986, spoke with reporters about Gorbachev but declined to say what subjects he raised during the three-hour meeting in the Kremlin.

Sakharov is one of 30 board members for the fund, which was described at the news conference as a private research group that will study problems such as the arms race, pollution, poverty, hunger and human rights violations.

Soviet citizens rarely have been allowed to take part in private international organizations, but the fund appears to have official backing in view of the reception by Gorbachev. The news conference was held at a Foreign Ministry hall, and prominent scientists Roald Sagdeyev and Yevgeny Velikhov are among the Soviet board members.

Asked for Impressions

Asked after the news conference about his impressions of Gorbachev, Sakharov said: "I have a great opinion of Gorbachev as a government figure and in personal terms. I think this kind of leader is needed in a great country at such a decisive moment in history."

Velikhov, vice president of the Soviet Academy of Sciences, said it would be up to Soviet authorities whether Sakharov will be allowed to travel to meetings in the foreign cities. The dissident has never been allowed abroad because of classified work he did in the 1940s and 1950s.

Sakharov was one of the nation's most respected scientists until he began questioning the nuclear weapons he helped create and took up the cases of dissidents in the 1960s.

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